Avoiding fracking earthquakes: expensive venture

With mounting evidence linking hundreds of small earthquakes from Oklahoma to Ohio to the energy industry’s growing use of fracking technology, scientists say there is one way to minimize risks of even minor temblors.

Only, it costs about $10 million a pop.

A thorough seismic survey to assess tracts of rock below where oil and gas drilling fluid is disposed of could help detect quake prone areas.

But that would be far more costly than the traditional method of drilling a bore hole, which takes a limited sample of a rock formation but gives no hint of faults lines or plates.

The more expensive method will be a hard sell as long as irrefutable proof of the link between fracking and earthquakes remains elusive.

“If we knew what was in the earth we could perfectly mitigate the risk of earthquakes,” said Austin Holland, seismologist at theOklahoma Geological Survey. “That is something that we don’t have enough science to establish yet.”

A 4.0 New Year’s Eve quake in Ohio prompted officials to shut down five wells used to dispose of fluid used in the hydraulic fracturingprocess. That comes less than a year after Arkansas declared a moratorium due to a surge in earthquakes as companies developed the Fayetteville Shale reserve.

Experts say the quakes do not necessarily appear to be caused during the process of fracking, a controversial extraction technique that involves injecting chemical-laced water and sand into shale rock to release oil and gas.

Instead, it’s the need to dispose of millions of gallons of contaminated fluid extracted from each drilling site, either to be recycled or trucked to a separate location to be pumped deep underground.

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